Burnout Sweeps Through Accounting Industry Causing Surge in Mistakes on the Job

Burnout is a silent epidemic that’s affecting the accounting industry. And it has wide-ranging effects – from recruiting and retaining top talent, to company culture and productivity – and it isn’t just accountants that are suffering from this.

This article looks into this further.

Remote working, compliance rules, and mundane responsibilities are feeding into the silent crisis of burnout, creating an overwhelmed and overloaded workforce within the accountancy industry.

A new survey has revealed the alarming extent of burnout among accountants and its impact on critical accounting processes, with 99% of survey respondents admitting to suffering from chronic workplace stress.

Considering the consequences burnout has on accuracy and reliability, Mike Whitmire, co-founder and CEO of FloQast, says it is “time for a massive shift”.

“Growth is made in times of friction. With fluctuating economies, leaders and organisations must take these challenges seriously and address them if they want to see exceptional growth,” according to Whitmire.

FloQast, a provider of accounting workflow automation software, released the results of its latest survey, Controller’s Guidebook: Burnout in Accounting – Understanding the Problem, Leveraging Solutions, offering a critical perspective on the challenges faced by today’s accountants.

According to the survey, 85% of accountants had to reopen their books at least once over the last year to fix errors, and nearly half (49%) had to reopen their books in three or more months of the year.

“War on talent”

Gary Bell, partner at FLB Accountants, says professional services has always been a “peak and trough” industry.

“There is a war on talent, and the demand for services is increasing, and you have to be far more selective of the clients you take on as a business to protect the interests of your team [and] to avoid burnout,” says Bell.

He added that training and productivity is “hampered” by hybrid working as it makes it harder for those early in their career to have a five-minute conversation with a manager to solve any problems.

He believes that this pushes the work up through the chain of command, as managers sometimes find it easier to complete tasks themselves instead of providing the necessary training to their staff.

The overhaul of audit in the UK is also having a profound  impact on the industry amid ongoing talent shortages.

“The Big Four are bound with constraint, there is only a certain number of people they can bring in and that is becoming evident with the way they are pricing the work which they are undertaking, creating a waterfall effect down the 50+50 list,” says Bell.

Burnout fears drive labour shortages

Sophie Lord, head of learning and development at Moore Kingston Smith, has concerns that burnout can discourage people from joining the profession.

“Burnout dissuades individuals from joining the profession, which impacts the ability to attract and develop talent. This particularly affects early talent which is a big part of any firm’s succession planning,” says Lord.

She also believes that “learning is more important than ever” when it comes to avoiding burnout, especially in the wake of the pandemic.

Working from home and changes in the industry, such as an increased use of technology, can lead to people feeling concerned with their performance, notes Lord.

“We have increased our focus on performance review, while revising our comprehensive competency framework to include capabilities.

“The learning and development team provides tailored learning curriculums for all roles, as well as financial and study support for those looking to develop professional qualifications,” says Lord.

Overcoming burnout

According to FloQast’s latest survey firms are advised to implement better training for accountants on the tools they use to carry out daily tasks to avoid burnout, as well as reducing the number of tools used.

To help combat burnout in the workplace FLB Accountants’ Bell aims to give recognition to “achievements no matter how big or small to keep team moral up”.

Meanwhile, at Moore Kingston Smith, the firm is prioritising wellbeing by running sessions on mindfulness, says Lord.

However, the issue of burnout in the accounting sector is likely to persist due to the fluctuating economic outlook and ongoing talent shortages, according to Stefan Van Duyvendijk, accounting operations evangelist at FloQast.

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